Star Trek fans were shocked and saddened to learn of the death of 27-year-old actor Anton Yelchin, who was reportedly killed when his Jeep sport utility vehicle, manufactured by Fiat Chrysler (FCAM), rolled down his driveway and pinned him to a brick post in front of his home in Los Angeles.
The investigation is still ongoing, but as CNN Money reports, the company filed a notice of recall with federal safety regulators in April pertaining to the 2015 Grand Cherokee – along with 1.1 million cars and sport utility vehicles – for reported gear selector problems. These issues had reportedly been cited in more than 100 car accidents in which there was confusion as to whether the vehicle was in park.
Car owners themselves had not received official notice of the recall, though the company did issue a warning about the issue in May. Drivers were instructed to make absolutely certain the vehicle was in park and that the parking brake was engaged before exiting. The actual recall notice was halted because the company didn’t immediately have the replacement parts to to start initiating free repairs of the vehicles.
FCAM has promised to conduct a full investigation of the crash in which Yelchin died, although our Charlotte car accident lawyers know that those investigators will be most interested in identifying ways to limit the company’s liability – both in this case and others.
Basically, the gear selector in these vehicles is different than what you might see in other cars, apparently for style reasons. Unlike what you might see in most other cars, in which gear selectors move forward or backward depending on if the vehicle is in drive, neutral, reverse or park, these vehicles reportedly contain selectors that turn upright anytime the gear is changed. Where this is especially problematic is if the car is left in neutral, in which case it could roll away.
Reports with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are that there have been nearly 120 crashes reported due to this flaw, and of those, there have been nearly three dozen injuries. Some of those injuries have been severe, including a ruptured bladder, fractured pelvis and broken ribs. Thus far, the agency reports there have not been any deaths associated with this issue, but that could change once the investigation into Yelchin’s death is completed.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit has been filed seeking class action status on behalf of vehicle owners of some 810,000 vehicles – 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees, 2012 through 2014 Chrysler 300s and 2012 through 2014 Dodge Chargers – that are allegedly linked to these driver-less roll-away problem. Plaintiffs allege the company fraudulently concealed this defect and endangered the public. Plaintiffs also assert they should receive compensation for the diminished value of their vehicles due to the negative media coverage following Yelchin’s death.
Additionally, FCAM is recalling about 13,000 Maserati sedans that reportedly have this same kind of gear shift defect.
The current design does reportedly have indicator lights that show the driver the position of the vehicle and a door chime will alert if the vehicle isn’t in park when the door opens. Still, there is clearly a problem as drivers continue to exit their vehicles thinking they are in park when in fact they are not.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Jeep owners sue Fiat Chrysler over defect suspected in ‘Star Trek’ actor’s death, June 23, 2016, By Jackie Wattles, CNN Money
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